Be arami, Be arami .... A first trip to Iran - Sprinklers, Biscuits and Headscarf Slippage


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Middle East » Iran » North » Kashan
October 14th 2014
Published: November 29th 2014
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Last night's Tango equals this mornings very friendly international communal breakfast. We all seem to have emerged for breakfast at the same time. The Ambassador and her partner and Brigitta and Jasmine are heading off on a day trip and I have arranged a car to get me to Kashan via Abyaneh and Natanz. A bus would be a cheap option but this way I get to see another 2 places on my list and get to Kashan in time to see some of it. I managed to get the last room at Ehsan Historical House (a tiny (=cheap)one on the roof- "am I ok with climbing ladders" the receptionist asked- sounds cool IMO) after ringing around a couple of places that are completely full. I tell Jasmine about it and it transpires that this is the room she had last year and a succession of her friends have had on their visits. Pack my backpack for the I don't know how many times now and make mental note to return spare room key to Soufi. I'm impressed with my pack, it seems to accommodate all the additional purchases without any problem- possibly my exceptional packing technique. My driver of the
Masjed-e Jameh NatanzMasjed-e Jameh NatanzMasjed-e Jameh Natanz

More great tiles, beautiful colours
day (Reza, an Armenian friend of Zaven) arrives so time to say good bye to all the Dibai people. Jasmine and Brigitta will be in Tehran tomorrow so I will see them again very soon- they are also going to stay at the Hafez Hotel where I'll spend my last night (boohoo).

About 30 minutes into our trip to Natanz, Reza gets a phone call- yep, I have the spare keys in my pocket still- luckily Reza will just drop them back for me when he gets back to Esfehan (bonus of booking a driver through the hotel I guess). The trip to Natanz is mostly via the Express way, it's 85km away but the scenery keeps me interested- the Zagyros Mountains, dirt, shepherds, 3 raptors... probably checking out the sheep, etc. According to LP Natanz is on the lower slopes of Mt Karkas and has 2 attractions- the Masjed-e Jameh aka another James Mosque and the adjoining tomb of an 11th century mystic. I visit both and do indeed appreciate the 14th century buildings, the beautiful eggshell ceiling and the turquoise, blue and white tiles. I also appreciate very well tended garden next door even when the gardener turns the sprinkler on while I am in his well tended garden. Reza is pacing by this stage, he is ready to go- I suspect he colluded with the gardener to tun on the sprinklers!

IMO the third attraction of Natanz is the uranium enrichment plant! I'm not sure why but I am very keen to see it- LP says no photos. Fine by me. There are a lot of gun turrets and missile rocket launcher things dotted throughout the countryside- must be around here somewhere... The third attraction done and dusted we drive at high speed to Abyaneh- I suspect I'm not going to be having a leisurely stroll through the ancient streets if Reza has anything to do with it. Abyaneh is a 1500 year old village populated by mainly old people wearing colourful flowery clothes, we arrive just after midday and the place is almost deserted. I suspect the old people are having their naps. I suggest to Reza that I'll give him a call after I've had a walk around but Reza suggests I should just follow him on a speed walk through the town. It's a very picturesque village (even at a fast trot)- crumbling mud brick houses, steep and winding laneways, cobble stones, rotting timber verandahs, donkeys carrying firewood, chickens, 3 Japanese tourists, another donkey, 2 elderly men and an elderly lady peeling apricots. I manage to convince Reza that we need a cup of tea so we take a seat on a courtyard overlooking the valley. I get chatting with 2 young girls from Tehran who are on holidays with their parents- they can't wait to get back to Tehran- the road trip has been too quiet for them- they miss their friends, they miss the wifi connectivity of the city. They think Abyaneh is the end of the earth, I think Abyaneh would be quite a nice spot to spend a night or 2 - lots of hills to climb and very peaceful- next time perhaps?

Sooooo, after 40 minutes tops (!!!) in Abyaneh we're back in the car heading for Kashan. Ehsan Traditional House is very nice, it is off the main street down a lane way and looks very quaint and unassuming from the front desk. Reza drops me and runs and the front desk guy takes me up to the roof to my little room. It is great- 2 beds, 2 windows, 2 bottles of water, a little fridge and a wifi signal. The shared bathroom is across the roof and is really new and modern and clean- probably the best one of the trip. Starving now that it's about 2pm I go in search of food, the entire town seems to be shut though. I duck into a fruit shop and ask him where I can get some lunch- this results in an invitation to share his lunch (homemade by his mum - it's delicious- so very hospitable. Wander off after lunch with a bag of apples, there are a few parks around. Sitting on a bench when I get a second soaking for the day- reticulation sprinklers... Is Reza behind this one too?

The 800 year old Kashan Bazaar is my next stop, the best bit of it lies at the old caravanserai where there is huge domed ceiling and a second storey of old shops, one in particular looks really appealing- an antique shop that can be accessed from a rickety old staircase. It's full to the brim with china, furniture, pictures, lights, post cards, photos, keys, locks, tools, etc. The other nice thing about this spot is the tea cart downstairs- cardamon infused tea in a glass served on a tray- a great spot to sit and watch people and eat biscuits. That's next best thing in the bazaar - this one shop selling bakery goods- AMAZING range of biscuits. Very cheap at about 70c for a box of 12 assorted and so delicious- even better than the Yazd ones.

My afternoon then took an interesting turn- by complete chance I found a women's hairdresser! For all the time I had been in Iran I had never seen a hairdresser- hundereds, no, thousands of barbers, but no hairdressers. Makes sense when you think about it with the headscarf thing but, well, I had to go have a look! It was VERY secret squirrel. Two flights of stairs, random door, secret buzzer, curtains behind the door.... Inside were 2 women, short sleeves, tight leggings/jeans, bare heads. I think they were surprised to see me. Using my very best "Dramatic Charades" techniques and a calculator we negotiated a wash and blow dry. They sure use a lot of product in Iran- I emerged with very fragrant, super shiny straight hair for $7. The rest of my afternoon was spent repeatedly pulling my headscarf back over my super shiny, super straight, super slippery hair- ahh, but it was so worth it having decent looking hair again.

Headed back to Ehsan to grab some dinner. The cafe at the hotel had a pretty decent menu of traditional Iranian dishes and it was a nice setting at night. It was actually pretty busy- lots of groups and a few families with small kids. I had my first solo meal for a while. 2nd last night- I sat up on the roof on my room steps for a bit enjoying the view- the stars, the rooftops and the lit up buildings around the town before a relatively early night. Noticeably cooler temperature this far north, actually needed a blanket.


Additional photos below
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AbyanehAbyaneh
Abyaneh

Woman under the bridge with floral garment particular to this village
Nice view over the valleyNice view over the valley
Nice view over the valley

Mountains look ripe for exploring
Ehsan Traditional House- day timeEhsan Traditional House- day time
Ehsan Traditional House- day time

Quite a big courtyard with fruit trees, lots of daybeds


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